Dallas. Growing up in Lockhart, the BBQ capital of the world, the only things I thought of when I heard the word were the Cowboys and the intro to the TV show. I’ll admit that when I moved to Fort Worth I bought into the rivalry between the two cities. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to appreciate Dallas much more than I used to.
When we began to discuss Twenty at the Tower, one of the ideas was to include as many Dallas chefs as we could. We wanted to provide the opportunity for Fort Worth residents to eat some of the great food being sent out of Dallas kitchens without having to make the drive. In turn, we wanted to create an avenue for some Dallas chefs to head west and show their talents to a new audience. Last Sunday, we hosted our first Dallas chef. Graham Dodds from Central 214 in the Palomar Hotel prepared a spectacular meal to a sold out crowd and really left an impression on everyone that attended. As I did with Blaine Staniford, I sat down with Graham to ask a few questions. Here’s what he had to say.
Q: What was the most memorable meal you’ve ever had?
A: Most memorable meal is a tie between Gordon Ramsay’s Aubergine & Pierre Koffmann's La Tante Claire- both 3 Michelin starred restaurants in London
Q: What items are always in your refrigerator at home?
A: In my fridge at home I usually have raw milk from one of my farmers and pastured chicken eggs!! I buy the corn tortillas from central market and make breakfast tacos with them.
Q: What chef have you worked with that has made the biggest impression upon you?
A: Two chefs I worked with made a huge impact on me - Greg Higgins in Portland, Oregon for his pioneering farm to table approach and locally Sharon Hage for her style and commitment to all things local.
Q: If you had one thing to eat for the rest of your life, what would that item be?
A: If I ate something for the rest of my life it would be gnocchi with basil pesto I learned to make in the Italian part of Switzerland when I lived there.
Q: What is the one piece of advice that you would give a young student thinking about going to culinary school?
A: My advice is to get some real restaurant work experience first and make sure it's what you want to do. It's a long hard road!!
The most interesting discussion that I had with Graham is his interest in beekeeping. As a child, Dodds spent summers in England with his grandparents where he learned beekeeping from his grandfather. My father’s hobby was beekeeping as well so we were able to share a couple of stories about hot August days spent getting stung and collecting honey. Graham’s work with the bees continues today as he maintains several hives in Dallas and Waxahachie. His integration of locally produced honey has become one of Dodds’ trademarks, in addition to use of other regional ingredients sourced through longtime partnerships with Texas farmers. I can only hope that all of the other Dallas chefs perform as magnificently as Chef Dodds. He did an amazing job.
Russell Kirkpatrick is AGM at Reata Restaurant and Founder of the Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival